The Office Dilemma: Part Three of Three
Culture and Boundaries
The physical office is a great way to demonstrate what the business culture of the company is to whoever walks in, including potential clients. The lobby/entry can be the first impression for most visitors and most companies ensure this space communicates their mission – what the company wants and is working towards at all times. Collaborative areas show the value of connection and innovation. Break out spaces show that employee experience is held in high regard. Natural light and views from windows are a depiction of wellness and community ties. These are all beacons to attract the right ‘talent’ to apply and join the company. This isn’t as obvious when operating in a virtual space, it’s not visible to visitors that the sense of community and collaboration is there.
Culture & Office
The decay of company culture is being questioned as a result of the work from home approach bought about by the global pandemic that is COVID-19. Without the chance to be together in an office setting, companies are now having trouble distinguishing and upholding what their company culture is. In the digital world, it is harder for leaders to reinforce or hold people accountable for behaviours that do not fit into their culture. A company does not manage culture, it creates it through risk and reward. This is what is leading to the decay of company culture, and making it harder to move back into a traditional office setting.
Without a clear culture, it’s harder to designate goals and collaborate, as well as hire new employees to fit into the group as a whole. Most of the company culture isn’t tangible, it’s made up of the synergy of different people who share the same space. It’s also the leadership styles that form the values, assumptions, norms and the way things are done throughout the company.
Boundaries & Connections
Another great way to show that employees are taken care of within an organisation is by having clear boundaries. A well-known boundary would be the separation between home and office. Leaving work at the office, and focusing on your personal life once you leave the building is a clear boundary. But the pandemic and working from home has entirely removed that boundary. There is a benefit to leaving homelife in the home and coming into an office to focus on work.
Having boundaries within a company shows a positive working culture, as well as having empathy and trust in the employees. Empathy and trust are enhanced with a physical presence. Those who work together regularly can more easily communicate through empathy and trust. To share events in their lives, support and learn from each other. Trust is built through proximity, and according to a study done by MIT – physical distance can turn into a psychological distance. This study showed a deterioration of team dynamics when working remotely. More regular interactions and communication help us make sense of other people’s responses and more greatly understand their point of view.
Social capital is the friendships, connections and shared understanding that allow us to work together most efficiently. This is built more effectively when people are together. The alternative is a reduction in social capital. This results in people not knowing where they stand, feeling less confident in the office and other areas of their lives. Leaders can also focus on employees and their needs through non-verbal signs, understanding when they need guidance or assistance. It’s not as easy online, people can hide their struggles behind the monitor and fall into a pit they can’t get out of. It’s more effort online, more formal. This is when relationships can deteriorate and create conflict, something that can be avoided in a physical space that creates a collaborative workplace.
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